We love to think that we are the primary engine of our own success. And there is no doubt that our individual effort is critical in almost any achievement.
But as my new children’s book, Three Little Engines – a modern retelling of the classic The Little Engine that Could that comes out on Tuesday – I wanted to use this opportunity to illustrate who really helped this book ‘get over the mountain.” Here is a quick overview.
As part of my work, I was introduced to Shai whose research explored how people see their headwinds (challenges) and tailwinds (assistance) differently.
As part of our conversation, he shared an New Yorker article, America’s Surprising Views on Inequality written by Maria which closes with this passage:
One book he won’t be reading to his infant: “The Little Engine That Could.” ‘I have always hated that book,’ he told me. ‘Some engines can’t, and it’s not their fault.”
After reading the article, I wondered what a different version of the Little Engine story might look like. After a few days of giving it some thought, I took out a notebook and wrote the first draft in an afternoon.
I read it to my three young daughters and they gave me the thumbs up.
My friend Maryellen knew a noted illustrator named Ed who agreed to take a look at the manuscript. He thought it had promise and an important message worth telling – especially in education settings.
Buoyed by this encouragement, another friend, Sarah, connected me to Pam, founder at Lit World and now at Scholastic. It was Pam who suggested that I reach out to Penguin regarding any rights issues before moving forward.
Ironically, I had worked in the same building as Penguin for fifteen years. Yet, not knowing anyone there, I cold called the main number and asked for the rights department.
I spoke with Draga who asked me to send an email detailing my request to write a new version of the Little Engine story and my desire to use it for educational purposes.
After almost two months, I reached out again to Draga who connected me to Stephanie. About a month later, she requested that I send over the manuscript. Within two weeks, Stephanie replied, asking if I would be interested in talking to Sarah at Penguin Workshop.
During the call with Sarah, I had expected that my request would be either rebuffed or given restrictions limiting my ability to refer to the original characters or story.
The opposite occurred. Coincidentally, Sarah told me, they were looking for a more modern take on the story to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the original that was upcoming and asked if I was interested in Penguin publishing my story.
Without an agent, my lawyer Jean then connected me with another lawyer, Mark, to help with the contract.
I then worked with the editorial team at Penguin – Sarah, Francesco, Eve, Nathaniel, Megan – whose editorial notes greatly improved the story.
Steve and Lou beautifully illustrated the book.
Of course, it was then printed and shipped by people I will never meet (interestingly the first shipment of the books was lost at sea pushing the publication date back three months.)
Anna, Shanta, Casey in marketing at Penguin helped get the word out. As did my own contacts Mike, Morgan, Mark, Steve, Eugenia, Diane, Ryan and others.
This in turn has led people I never met to write or report on it.
Booksellers ordered it and will be putting it on shelves Tuesday.
Patti, Jane, Michael, Marie, Melissa, Debbie have helped plan events.
And, of course, there are those who will (hopefully) choose to buy it.
Finally, there is my family – most importantly my wife, who has encouraged me and made all of this possible in the first place.
And I’m sure I’m leaving so many off of this list. (Sorry – please let me know if I have!)
My point? I don’t have a book coming out Tuesday. We do.
Thanks to all those who have been the true engines behind this book launch.
If interested in jumping on this train, you can order your copy here or at your local bookstore.